Women We Laud: Communicating Independence – Deborah Dumaine & Kathy Caprino


As June’s Effective Communications Month cedes to July’s month of independence, Women We Laud celebrates two women who have combined both savvy communications skills and fierce independent spirits to create their own thriving business empires.

Deborah Dumaine

Business writing communications expert, multi-published author, Harvard Business School consultant

In 1978, when Deborah Dumaine founded Better Communications—a business writing consulting firm providing services to Fortune 500/1000 clients—there were very few women-owned businesses in the corporate world. But that didn’t stop Dumaine. Deciding on the company name with her sister, Miriam, Dumaine started small, wooing clients with her innovative, “reader-centered” approach to business writing which sharply contrasted with the then highly accepted jargon-filled, academic-esque biz writing of the time. Holding workshops and seminars and gaining popularity through word-of-mouth, Dumaine now owns a franchise based on her best-selling book Write to the Top: Writing for Corporate Success. She is also the author of the Instant-Answer Guide to Business Writing and has been featured in Fast Company, Selling Power, Fortune, and American Way magazines, as well as serving as a writing expert for Harvard Business School Publishing. Here, in an exclusive interview, Dumaine tells Beauty News NYC about opening her own business and provides tips for women who may be on the brink of professional change.

BN: You decided to open your own business. What struggles did you face in that process and how did you overcome them to become so successful?
DD: I went to an SBA SCORE entrepreneurial adviser, who told me my business idea would never work and that I was not even dressed appropriately for business. He said not to wear pants–just skirts and heels. That was a long time ago. Now people do much better market research and business plans so take that part VERY seriously. And don’t listen to old fogeys if you have done your homework. I didn’t! By the way I starved for several years after I quit my job to start my business. It took a long time for bettercom.com to become profitable, but I was stubborn and kept going—living on air. It paid off!

BN: Why do you think effective communications is so important, especially for women?
DD: Women have a natural talent for communications and have great empathy skills which can make them very successful in business. If they can translate that into writing (which is what we teach in corporations) they can really distinguish themselves. Effective writers are recognized, promoted, and appreciated. It will be a huge plus for your career if you sound as smart as you are when you write.

BN: What advice do you have for women who are currently struggling in their professional lives?
DD: Get a mentor. Women who are towards the end of their careers are usually very grateful for all the help they got on the way up and are eager to give back—to return the favor. Don’t be shy about asking and networking with people even if you think they are way beyond you. You’d be surprised what good things could happen! I wish I had been braver on that front when I was young.

For more information on Deborah Dumaine, Better Communications, and/or Write to the Top, visit bettercom.com to learn about online and in-person workshops on Reader-Centered Business Writing and to read Ms. Dumaine’s blog or purchase books.

Kathy Caprino

Work-life career expert, author, speaker

Founder and president of Ellia Communications, a company dedicated to helping professional women achieve meaningful breakthrough in their lives, work, and relationships to work as they truly want to, Kathy Caprino wasn’t always living the fulfilling life she does now. For 18 years, she served as a corporate marketing executive, and while at first she found the work to be rewarding, it began to feel inauthentic to her as she approached 40 (she’s now 51). After much thought and struggle, Caprino decided to reclaim her life, earning a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and training as a coach. After speaking with many friends and colleagues, she realized she was not alone in the difficulties she faced: she learned an astounding nine out of ten women were unhappy with their work-life circumstances. Committing to be a part of the solution, Caprino wrote the book Breakdown, Breakthrough about the 12 hidden crises women face today and how to overcome them. Now a ForbesWoman and a HuffingtonPost blogger and founder of the Amazing Career Project, Caprino helps thousands of women nationwide achieve breakthrough in their careers and lives. Here, Caprino talks to Beauty News NYC about her struggles, success, and gives tips to women seeking change in their professional lives.

BN: You decided to leave the corporate world and open your own business. What struggles did you face in that process and how did you overcome them to become so successful?
KC: After I experienced a brutal layoff from my corporate Vice Presidency in the days following 9/11, I decided to completely reinvent my life. I longed to focus on a new direction in the helping profession, and wanted to support people to make important transformations in their life and work. I earned a Masters degree in marriage and family therapy, trained as a career coach and began delivering workshops to women across Connecticut about new ways to thrive through change.

It was through those talks that I witnessed what I perceived to be an “underground epidemic” of crisis for midlife working women in corporate America. I embarked on a yearlong research study to learn more about professional women facing and overcoming these 12 “hidden” crises, and then wrote my book Breakdown Breakthrough and launched my business.

In terms of struggles that I experienced in building my business, as a new entrepreneur, I faced many and had a tremendous amount to learn about how to: 1) create a successful, revenue-generating business model, 2) consistently fill a client pipeline, 3) spread my messages to the audience that needed to hear them, 4) build a sizable media platform, 5) develop and launch new programs, products and services that were of value and would reach thousands of people, and 6) scale up effectively to handle the workload that grew out of my coaching, speaking and training work.

I overcame these struggles and achieved success through many different avenues including obtaining more training and education, interviewing experts who’d done what I longed to do, reading and studying everything I could about marketing, sales, mediapreneurship, and small businesses success, and obtaining key mentors and sponsors who could help catapult me to the next level. But the biggest and best lessons I learned came from my mistakes (and there were a lot of them!).

BN: Why do you think effective communications is so important, especially for women?
KC: All success today revolves around our ability to connect, engage, educate, enliven and build mutually-beneficial relationships, and all of that takes strong communications skills. With the emergence of solopreneurship, hundreds of thousands of people will find themselves working on their own by the end of this decade, serving in consultancies, solo ventures, private practices and outside the confines of the corporate arena. To achieve the success we long for, we’ll need to communicate powerfully – to build the relationships and networks we need, reach the audiences and customers we wish to serve, and to articulate exactly what and who we are in the business world, how we stand apart from the competition, and why anyone should care.

The research has shown (and I’ve witnessed it personally) that women in the business world have unique communication challenges around speaking up powerfully, asking for what they deserve without fear or hesitation, recognizing and talking about their rich talents and abilities, and articulating their personal brand with confidence. The more we can become adept at these vitally important communication skills, the more we will succeed and thrive in our lives and our work.

BN: What advice do you have for women who are currently struggling in their professional lives?
KC: First, know that you’re not alone. Your challenges are shared by thousands of others. But we can’t solve our problems on the level they were created. We need support, encouragement and new knowledge and skills.

After working with thousands of women over these past 10 years, I’ve developed a model for change that I teach my clients for overcoming work-life challenge and stepping up to our highest potential and our most compelling BIG dreams and visions. My five-step model consists of these core steps:

1) Step Back – for an empowered perspective of who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what you’re capable of going forward

2) Let Go – of the thinking, patterns and behaviors that are keeping you stuck (I call these your “power gaps”)

3) Say Yes! – to defining – and going for — your compelling visions and dreams for your future

4) Explore It – find ways to “try on,” research, and explore the new directions that excite you before your leap

5) Create It – Build a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) and BOLD action plan that will provide the structure, guidance, and accountability you need to create the next chapter of life and work as you truly want it.

The best advice of all is to understand that the happiness, success and reward you long for is much closer to you than you realize, but you have to ACT.

For more information on Kathy Caprino, check out her blogs on Forbes Leadership and Ellia Communications, her book Breakdown Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide To Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, and her new Amazing Career Project Group Coaching program launching this summer. And to gain more clarity on where you’ve been and what you want next, take her free Career Path Self-Assessment survey.

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